Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Secretly Awesome - The Cable Guy

Release Date: June 14, 1996
Director: Ben Stiller
Writer: Lou Holtz Jr.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo, George Segal, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross
Box Office: $60,240,295
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%

The Cable Guy is the black sheep of the early Jim Carrey filmography, failing to meet expectations set by his earlier work, like The Mask and the Ace Ventura films. I don't know how recently you've seen any of those films, but some of them really don't hold up very well, while The Cable Guy just gets better with age. Between Carrey's over-the-top neediness, the film's darkly bizarre silliness, or simply images like Carrey rubbing the spot on Matthew Broderick's wall where he'll install the cable like it's a nipple, I honestly don't know what's not to love about it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - **

Deathly Hallows Part 2 feels incomplete. Maybe that's because it is only half of a movie, with no discernible structure, no beginning, middle, and end, which means that it feels every bit like half of a movie. If you're like me and you haven't read the books, and were too bored by Deathly Hallows Part 1 to revisit it to refresh your memory on what is going on, being thrust into the middle of a five hour film is disorienting, especially when the characters start throwing around magic terms and looking for horcruxes National Treasure style. For once I was actually hoping for at least one shamelessly expository line, like, "Four down, three to go, Harry," just so I could know many more infiltration scenes followed by an obligatory CGI action spectacle with a dragon or fire monster were left.

The Potter films have always had flaws, but until these last two they've always been too much fun to get hung up on minor details. Deathly Hallows Part 2 almost seems designed to call its flaws to your attention, with its mess of pure action, numerous monumental plot twists, revelations of characters' true allegiances and motivations, and the piss-poor invention of a certain character's back story, not to mention the most out-of-place utterance of the word "bitch" since Juggernaut declared who he was in X-Men: The Last Stand, which unfortunately comes less than ten minutes after a speech from Dumbledore on the power of words... I cringed so hard I almost fell out of my seat.

Worst of all, the magic is gone in Deathly Hallows. It's missing the pleasure of discovering and rediscovering this world and its strange characters. Also lacking is the sense of danger that I came to enjoy in the last few installments, even though Harry and friends are constantly in harm's way. Revealing that Lord Voldemort, the source of that danger, grows weaker every time Harry destroys a horcrux doesn't help, especially considering the entire first half of the film has Harry destroying horcuxes, yielding shots of Voldemort in agony, scurrying off in retreat.

This is also the first film in the series in which we see and hear nothing of the real world, the non-wizard world... Curious, considering the events in this one more than any other make me wonder about the impact they would have on the real world. It made me ask myself what the significance of this whole war is at all. What is at stake here if Voldemort and the bad guys win? They never really say what they'll do. Is it just that he wants to kill a character I've grown to enjoy?

It's not all bad, though. There are some nice moments, and some great performances, Ralph Fiennes especially. And though it's a mess dramatically, most of the action is pretty well staged, though sometimes a bunch of kids zapping each other with wands does look a little silly. And the effects are great for the most part, if I ignore the aforementioned fire monster chase, which resembles that awful waterskiing sequence from Die Another Day. Still, I think the biggest compliment I have for it is that I didn't hate it, but maybe that's because I was trying so hard to love it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Secretly Awesome - Notting Hill

Release Date: May 28, 1999
Director: Roger Michell
Writer: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Dylan Moran, Gina McKee, Hugh Bonneville
Box Office: $116,089,678
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

I suppose Notting Hill would be considered a "chick flick," and it's movies like Notting Hill that make me dislike that term, which carries the negative connotation of formulaic simplicity solely aimed toward women. As with any genre, romantic comedies and dramatic love stories can be just as appealing to men as they are to women, when done well, and are just as essential to a balanced viewing diet as heavy dramas and big dumb action movies. But that point is almost irrelevant here, because, though it adheres to the conventions of a "chick flick," I think Notting Hill is as much a guy's movie as it is a girl's, if not more so.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon - **1/2

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an intelligent, well-crafted action/drama that serves as a biting commentary on today's socio-economic landscape. The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons has over the course of three films evolved into a layered metaphorical critique on current Unite-- Okay, no it hasn't, nor is there any biting social commentary, but we knew that going in, right?

The Transformers series is about one thing, and that's spectacle. Dark of the Moon has great effects and well-staged, if not almost exhausting, action sequences and, yes, the female love interest is most definitely introduced by a close-up of her ass... The spectacle is there. And what's better is director Michael Bay and his writers seem to have learned from the second film that the robots are not interesting as characters, which yields far less scenes of the robot teams just hanging out on world monuments talking strategy. Oh, and no racist robots this time, either.

So what else occupies its bloated 150 minute run time? A great opening sequence that was sort of ruined by being the film's teaser trailer, nine minutes of over-the-top comedic gold from Ken Jeong that is better than anything and everything in The Hangover 2, and John Turturro delivering some of the weirdest lines in recent memory ("Megatron! Let's tango!").

Is it perfect? No. Is it kind of hollow and empty inside? Sure. Could they have shaved 40 minutes off of the run time? Yup. Will you probably forget most of it twelve minutes after leaving the theater? Absolutely, but while you're watching it, it's honestly a pretty good time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Secretly Awesome - Young Sherlock Holmes

Release Date: December 4, 1985
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Chris Columbus
Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alex Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins
Box Office: $19,739,575
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%

Back when Steven Spielberg attached his name to creatively interesting projects rather than high-profile, big-budget blockbusters that don't exactly need his endorsement to be made, he produced a little film called Young Sherlock Holmes. It was written by Chris Columbus and directed by Barry Levinson which, including Spielberg, is virtually a mid-80s all-star team. The result is not exactly great, but is as hinted above, creatively interesting. I've always found modernizations and re-imaginings like this to be fun to watch. Well, maybe not always, considering the last one I can remember is Julie Taymor's take on The Tempest. Yeah, on second thought, some of them can be pretty awful, which just makes it that much better when a good one comes along, as is the case with Young Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Green Lantern - Zero Stars

Zero. Zero chemistry between leads; zero action; zero fun; zero humor; zero excitement; zero plot; zero cool; zero subtlety; zero intelligence; zero logic; zero narrative coherence; zero talent displayed; zero passable effects; zero effect on the audience who possess zero interest in the characters, zero interest in absorbing any of the crummy images put up on the screen, zero interest in fighting the urge to allow sleep to overcome them, zero interest in paying attention to some truly shit dialogue, unnecessary flashbacks, uneven and confusing introductions/uses of powers, ugly green imaginary weapons, unimpressive set pieces, lousy set/costume design, a villain that is more scary in the unintentional sense of more closely resembling the set of dreadlocks found on the head of some jackass wearing a tie-died shirt and trying to sell me on the benefits of organic toilet paper when I was in college than an evil, menacing entity bent on world-- no, UNIVERSE domination in a movie that looks less like it's based on a popular comic book series than on a line of generic action figures from the dollar store. Zero heart; zero grace; zero subtlety; zero wit; zero ambition; zero effort... Zero stars. And most importantly, zero desire for the surely shit sequel that was shamelessly teased during the end credits.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Secretly Awesome - Little Big League

Release Date: June 29, 1994
Director: Andrew Scheinman
Writer: Gregory K. Pincus, Andrew Scheinman
Cast: Luke Edwards, Timothy Busfield, John Ashton, Jonathan Silverman, Dennis Farina, Jason Robards
Box Office: $12,267,790
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

There were a handful of solid kids' baseball movies released in the mid-1990s, the least remembered, most underrated of which being Little Big League. In my experience, I find that people who were actually kids when these movies came out seem to gravitate towards The Sandlot, which always surprises me. Perhaps they are just nostalgic for a time they never experienced, because anyone who has seen The Sandlot after turning fifteen has to agree that it doesn't exactly hold up well, and that it's essentially just watered-down Stand By Me. Not the case with Little Big League, however, which features a better premise, better characters, and much better comic relief, not to mention better baseball.

Secretly Awesome - The Last Mimzy

Release Date: March 23, 2007
Director: Robert Shaye
Writers: Bruce Joel Rubin, Toby Emmerich
Cast: Chris O'Neil, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, Timothy Hutton, Rainn Wilson, Joely Richardson, Kathryn Hahn, Michael Clarke Duncan
Box Office: $21,471,047
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%

Rather than wallow in my disappointment over last week's far-less-than-stellar Super 8, I decided to revisit the most recent movie I can remember that successfully attempted to portray the wonder and mystery of children discovering aliens, The Last Mimzy. I must admit that the differences between the two films are greater than I remembered, not having seen Mimzy in several years, there are enough similarities for me to wish Super 8 director J.J. Abrams had watched it before finishing his screenplay.


I don't know if you noticed, but I haven't posted anything on here for about three months. Sorry. A few reasons: First, the Secretly Awesome feature was adopted by, which is a website that hooks people up with free passes to exclusive and advance screenings of movies in large cities. I believe they are only operating the northeast right now, but if you live in or around places like New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, I would certainly recommend frequenting their website or following them on Twitter (@Cinemit).

Second, I moved. Third, I bought a very large television and have been binging on blu-rays for the past month or so, so I really haven't been to many movies lately anyway. I had introduced Secretly Awesome for the purpose of adding some consistency to the posting of new content on this site. Removing it had the unintended consequence of removing my interest in posting anything new. Oops. From now on, I'll post Secretly Awesome in a preview format, with a link to the full feature on Cinemit, and hopefully I'll find it in me to post something on some current movies while I'm at it.